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A bill proposed by  Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan has failed to garner the support of the government after a recent meeting with the Seanad, despite previous cross-party support (Ni Aodha, 2016).

The bill proposed a ban on the sale of products containing microbeads and microplastics. Microbeads are ‘non-biodegradable solid plastic particles measuring less than five millimeters in diameter that are used in cosmetics, soaps or similar products as cleansing or exfoliating agents’ (PPB, 2016, 3). These micrometer-sized particles are too small for water treatment facilities to filter and process, and as such have entered our waters which in turn could impact the ecophysiological functions performed by marine organisms (Browne et al. 2013, 2390).


The government however has indicated that while they agreed in principle with the bill, the imposition of a ban would be in breach of EU regulations pertaining to the free movement of goods. Furthermore, under Directive (EU) 2015/1535, formal notification must be given to the Commission of the intention to introduce new legislation pertaining to the prohibition of microbeads in Ireland before it can be presented in the Oireachtas (Coveney, 2016).

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney has addressed the Green Party’s private members bill and assured that the government would ‘develop proposals to ban microbeads national in the context of a wider marine environmental Bill to be published in next year which would also provide the legislative basis for a network of Marine Protected Areas as required by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and make necessary amendments to the Dumping at Sea Acts'(ibid.).

If you would like to learn more about microbeads, what they are, how they are formed, and their potential impacts on Irish marine life, why not read our blog post on ‘Plastics and Microplastics‘?



Coveney, S. (2016) Minister Coveney Addresses the Green Party’s Private Members Bill on Microbeads.

Ni Aodha, G. (2016) Government to Oppose Green’s Bid to Ban Microbeads Claiming Bill Breaches EU Law.

PPB (2016) – Micro-Plastic and Micro-bead Pollution Prevention Bill 2016.